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The Times
  • Get Reel: Academy Awards predictions

  • Oscar prognosticators should feel about as comfortable this year as a bleeding-heart liberal at a tea party rally. Unlike last year, sure bets are rare with many of the races coming down between two nominees, turning predictions into coin tosses.

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  • Oscar prognosticators should feel about as comfortable this year as a bleeding-heart liberal at a tea party rally.
    Unlike last year, sure bets are rare with many of the races coming down between two nominees, turning predictions into coin tosses.
    So with my lucky penny in hand and working overtime, here are the nominees and my predictions:
    BEST PICTURE
    The nominees: “The Artist,” “The Descendants,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” “The Help,” “Hugo,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Moneyball,” “The Tree of Life” and “War Horse.”
    “The Artist” has been given front-runner status based on the awards it has already won, including the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical. It’s also the best film of the year in my humble opinion. If it wins, “The Artist” will be the first silent film to take home Oscar since “Wings” in 1927.
    Its main competition comes from “The Descendants,” the Golden Globe winner for Best Drama, and “Hugo.” Either of those two films winning would not come as a surprise as they are both deserving. The others are either long shots or no-shots.
    The film that does not belong as a nominee is “The Tree of Life,” a film that critics loved, the public loathed and no one understood. Why not nominate the funniest film of the year: “Bridesmaids”? Comedies get no respect again. “Super 8” and “Win Win” also should have merited consideration.
    WILL WIN: “The Artist”
    SHOULD WIN: “The Artist”
    BEST ACTOR
    The nominees: Demian Bichir, “A Better Life“; George Clooney, “The Descendants“; Jean Dujardin, “The Artist“; Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy“; and Brad Pitt, “Moneyball.”
    I have absolutely no idea who is going to win this award. I thought it was going to be a battle between George Clooney, the Golden Globe winner in the drama category, and Pitt, but Dujardin’s Screen Actors Guild (SAG) victory coupled with his Golden Globe award in the comedy or musical category definitely puts him in the running.
    The question you have to ask yourself is, “Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?”
    Will the Academy give the Oscar to a French actor whom hardly any American has ever heard of over two extremely popular and talented American actors? It could happen if the Oscar folks go completely ga-ga over “The Artist.” I’m betting it doesn’t.
    Clooney should be considered the favorite. While he’s a previous winner, that was for Best Supporting Actor.
    Pitt, meanwhile, serves as the driving force behind “Moneyball” while “The Descendants” has a more ensemble feel to it. Hey, it’s apples and oranges here. Pick your favorite fruit.
    The actor who should have won the award wasn’t even nominated. Michael Fassbender turned in four quality performances last year, as a sex addict in “Shame,” Rochester in “Jane Eyre,” Carl Jung in “A Dangerous Method” and a young Magneto in “X-Men: First Class.”
    Page 2 of 4 - Maybe that worked against Fassbender, spreading himself too thin among the voters. His performance in “Shame” should have netted him an Oscar. Bad Academy.
    Oldman is the long shot, though his stellar acting career — and his stellar performance — could work in his favor.
    Bichir has no shot.
    WILL WIN: Clooney
    SHOULD WIN: Pitt
    BEST ACTRESS
    The nominees: Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs“; Viola Davis, “The Help“; Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo“; Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady“; and Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn.”
    Here, the duel should be between Streep and Williams. The former won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama, the latter for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, even though the film contains hardly any comedy or music. Huh?
    Based on gravitas alone, Streep, with more Oscar nominations than stars in the heavens, rates as a favorite for her spot-on performance as Margaret Thatcher. But she is a two-time winner and she also shares screen time with Alexandra Roach, who plays Thatcher as a younger woman.
    Williams, conversely, dominates the screen throughout in her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe just as Monroe did herself. It’s a tour-de-force effort. As with Clooney and Pitt, it’s an apples and oranges debate.
    Close could be the spoiler, however. A veteran actress with no Oscar on her mantel, she may get the sympathy treatment from Oscar voters. And she certainly does distinguish herself in “Albert Nobbs.”
    And then came SAG. Davis’ guild triumph puts her in the mix and gives her a legitimate shot. “The Help” was also a crowd favorite. While Davis’ performance is impressive, her character doesn’t dominate the film as the previously mentioned actresses do.
    Mara has no shot.
    WILL WIN: Williams
    SHOULD WIN: Williams
    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
    The nominees: Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn“; Jonah Hill, “Moneyball“; Nick Nolte, “Warrior“; Christopher Plummer, “Beginners“; and Max von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”
    As with the Best Actor category, the actor who should win wasn’t nominated. That would be Albert Brooks, playing against type brilliantly in “Drive.” Time to scold the Academy again.
    Plummer’s Golden Globe and SAG victories give him an edge in a wide open field. Plenty of talented veterans from whom to choose and none have won Oscars. Branagh has received five nominations, Nolte three and von Sydow two, the same as Plummer, who also has significant screen time in “Beginners.”
    All these nominees have a shot except Hill. If he wins, it’s going to be a bumpy night pour moi.
    While I was impressed with all the performances, I have a soft spot in my heart for Branagh, basically because the guy is wicked awesome, as they say in Bloomsbury.
    Page 3 of 4 - WILL WIN: Plummer
    SHOULD WIN: Branagh
    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
    The nominees: Berenice Bejo, “The Artist“; Jessica Chastain, “The Help“; Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids“; Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs“; and Octavia Spencer, “The Help.”
    This category is historically the hardest to pick as the Academy has a track record of making “unusual” choices.
    Spencer is the favorite based on her Golden Globe and SAG wins, and the Oscar voters might decide to honor a film that audiences actually saw and enjoyed. A Spencer win gives them that chance.
    That kind of logic could also work in favor of McCarthy, who steals the show in “Bridesmaids.”
    Based on quantity and quality, Chastain had a mildly productive year as she had roles in five, count ‘em, five films. In addition to “The Help,” there’s “The Debt,” “The Tree of Life,” “Coriolanus” and “Take Shelter.” An Oscar is in her future.
    Ditto for McTeer, who acts as the scene pilferer in “Nobbs.”
    The no-shot here should be the Argentine actress Bejo, but, remember, this category can get funky.
    WILL WIN: Spencer
    SHOULD SWIN: McCarthy
    BEST DIRECTOR
    The nominees: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist“; Alexander Payne, “The Descendants“; Martin Scorsese, “Hugo“; Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris“; and Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life.”
    Before the Directors Guild Award (DGA) winner was announced last month, the “favorite” label in this category belonged to Scorsese, based on his Golden Globe triumph and the fact that “Hugo” received more nominations this year than any other film with 11.
    While the Academy has deprived nominee-heavy films of major awards in the past, it may not choose to do so here, if just for the simple reason that “Hugo” celebrates film. And the Academy is all about celebrating film.
    In addition, though Scorsese is a previous winner, this is his first film that children can see without being traumatized for life. And he even makes 3-D work.
    All that said, I believe Hazanavicius should win, and now that he was received the coveted DGA prize, he could win. “The Artist” celebrates film too, and does a better job of it than “Hugo.” Yes, apples and oranges again.
    It’s not just that Hazanavicius had the audacity to make a black-and-white silent film. It’s the wonderful imagination and superlative execution on display throughout that make this film truly special.
    Typically, Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand and the Academy seldom votes contrarily from the DGA. There are, of course, always exceptions.
    As for the other nominees, Payne, one of the best directors whom few people know about, would be a fine choice, too. An Oscar is in his future as well.
    Page 4 of 4 - Allen, as a previous winner, has little chance. His film has a better shot in the screenplay category.
    Malick could win if the Academy smokes a communal bong before voting. Stoned out of one’s mind is the best way to view “The Tree of Life.”
    WILL WIN: Hazanavicius
    (I originally had chosen Scorsese, but changed my pick after the DGA announcement)
    SHOULD WIN: Hazanavicius
    The Bottom line: If my predictions don’t pan out, I’m getting a new penny.
    The Oscars broadcast airs Feb. 26.
    ***
    Poetry explored
    It’s now time for trivia.
    Last month’s tester: What actress won an Oscar for her 17-minute film debut? Clue: She would be nominated for another Oscar seven years later yet never nominated again.
    Answer: Mercedes McCambridge, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1949 for “All King’s Men.” She was nominated for the award in 1956 for “Giant.”
    Norma Shulman of Framingham, Mass., was the first reader to answer the question correctly. L.H. of Milford, Mass., and John LaGreca of Marlborough, Mass., also answered the question correctly. Congratulations!
    This month’s tester: What film about explorers, co-starring an actor who appears on two TV series today, takes its title from a line in a poem by Edgar Allen Poe? Name the film, the co-star, the two TV series and the Poe poem.
    The first reader to answer the question correctly will receive beauty products from Fruits & Passion.
    Trivia enthusiasts can call me at 508-626-4409 or email me at rtremblay@wickedlocal.com.
    Make sure you leave your name, address and phone number on my message machine or email so I can contact you if you answered the question correctly. The address is needed so winners can be mailed their prize. Callers should spell out their names slowly and clearly so their names will be spelled correctly in the column.
    Answers will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Good luck!
     
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